Immanuel Kant

As I travel across country this summer, I have been blessed to have many hours of reading time. My son Peter, thankfully, is doing most of the driving and I have been able to focus on long overdue reading assignments.

One of those is Immanuel Kant. I highlight Kant in my FIRE THAT BURNS (2005) book as a “seminal 18th century thinker.” Will Durant says that “never was a system of thought so dominate an epoch as the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.” Kant as it were, brilliant no doubt, tried to reclaim philosophy from the cold stupor of 18th century rationalism (e.g., John Locke) and self-indulgent narcissism of French romanticism (e.g., Rousseau).

Kant makes a great observation–Knowledge cannot be derived entirely from the senses. Hitting one’s finger with a hammer, for instance, is surely a sensory catastrophe, but, in the long one, it can be much more: it may cause us to flinch everytime we hold or see a hammer which is more than a sensory response. Kant says there is knowledge that separate from experience a priori knowledge, so to speak. There is, Kant, explains a transcendent dialect that goes beyond the senses. And where does that take us? Religion. And what is religion? Why it is morality.

Later in another book. RELIGION WITHIN THE LIMITS OF PURE REASON, argues that “an interest in the beauty of nature for its own sake is always a sign of goodness.” Indeed. Sounds a lot like Ralph Waldo Emerson! Goodness is tied to nature. Hum . . .

To Kant, churches and dogma have value only so far as they assist in the moral development of the race (Durant).

Well, Kant is better than Locke or Berkeley but he ultimately misses the mark. The God we serve is not a moral dogma, however altruistic. He is not a good feeling or good moral. He is the I AM. He is the Creator of the Universe. He is, as Carl Henry later so eloquently explains, transcends even the Kant. In fact the God I serve leaves Immanuel Kant gropping in a metaphysical darkness. It is not so much that God is farther than Kant could reach; He is in another universe. The mind cannot take us to that universe.

But the heart can. And God reached down and touched our hearts. God so loved the world to create in us a transcendental dialectic. Ha! I don’t think so. Thank you very much Mr. Kant.

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